Asked by Karen Keeney, Roseville, Minnesota
What is your opinion on vegan diets? Do you find they are better than animal-based fares? What should one watch out for? This is not for weight loss but general health.
Diet and Fitness Expert
Dr. Melina Jampolis
Physician Nutrition Specialist
Hi Karen -- Overall, vegan diets (diets containing no animal products) can be very healthy. They are generally much lower in saturated fat and cholesterol than animal-based diets, which include meat, eggs and dairy. Research suggests that replacing a percentage of the saturated fat in your diet with plant-based proteins such as beans, tofu, and nuts can significantly reduce a number of heart disease risk factors including high blood pressure and high cholesterol. In addition, several studies have found that very low meat consumption is associated with a significantly lower risk of death. While vegan diets are usually rich in carbohydrates, fiber, and many important vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, they can be low in several important nutrients including protein (important for preventing age-associated loss of muscle mass), B12 (important for preventing anemia and ensuring proper nervous system function), omega 3 fatty acids -- especially DHA & EPA (important for general and heart health), and calcium (important for bone health). I would recommend supplementing your vegan diet with fortified foods or supplements that contain these nutrients for optimal health.
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